Fachbereich Alte Geschichte, Sabine Huebner
The Snares of Thoth: a Social History of Provincial Administration in Ptolemaic Egypt
In this dissertation, I investigate social change as a function of broad structural changes implemented by the Ptolemaic state, specifically the proliferation of royal administration within local societies of the Nile Valley. In this process, local historical actors were the primary agents of change, as their everyday choices constructed the state apparatus and facilitated the execution of its operations. I argue that state formation contributed to the restructuring of local societies by presenting additional opportunities for the accumulation of social power. I make this argument on the basis of an investigation of the Egyptian nome, a hybrid institution of both administrative and social character. The administrative institution of the nome and its hierarchy of officials was grafted onto a complex web of societies varying in extent from dense local communities of agricultural producers to extensive networks of religious and military elites. The interface of this web of social networks with the nodes of the royal administration’s hierarchical network was the cutting edge of state formation: the arena within which the reciprocal obligations of king and subjects, friends and strangers, were negotiated. Because the interface of society and administration formed the institutional raison d’être of the Egyptian nome, and because the nome was a geographical entity in both form and function, I conduct the investigation of this institution using tools of human geography, specifically analyses of spatial distribution and connectivity. These analyses examine the administration’s degree of embeddedness in local societies, its geotemporal reach, and its cohesiveness. I perform these analyses on seven distinct nomes in order to illustrate the topography of local administration and the geography of state-contingent social power within each nome. I supplement these local human geographies with case-studies on individual provincial administrators, approaching them not as mere cogs in the machine of royal revenue extraction, but as socially embedded historical agents. These case-studies illustrate the transformative potential of state-formation distributed throughout local societies.
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